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A Day in the Life of DISA

Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Vice Director, Air Force Maj. Gen. Sarah Zabel provided FMA members some perspective on what it takes to operate a $30 billion global network in direct support of the military services, Department of Defense, the White House and other national leaders.

“What we do starts with global communications,” Maj. Gen. Zabel told attendees at a Feb. 18 FMA breakfast. “Whenever there is a soldier, sailor, airmen, coast guardsmen or marine in the field and they are communicating, they are using DISA provided global communications to get their message back to their higher headquarters.”

She said every combatant command has a DISA field office and the agency works with them to ensure their priorities are met and they are able to communicate with their troops in the field. A global organization, DISA employs 5,600 government employees, 1,400 military, and another 8,000 contractors. The agency operates from around 55 locations around the globe, but the heart of its operations is its headquarters at Fort Meade.

Since moving its headquarters to Fort Meade five years ago, DISA’s mission continues to evolve and the scope of services the agency provides continues to grow. From global communications and command and control to enterprise and mobility services to cyber protection and communications and computer support.

DISA operates 11 core data centers and stores approximately 65 petabytes of data across those data centers. The agency manages more than 1,000 enterprise applications worldwide and provides email to 1.5 million users. On an average day, the information flowing through its gateways to the internet include 300 terabytes of data and 52 million emails.

This leads to about 800 million security events per day, which DISA has to sort through to determine what is relevant. As a result, Maj. Gen. Zabel said the agency activates 56 million cyber security blocks each day and blocks nearly 80 percent of the emails. Its global service desk fields about 2,400 trouble calls and 2,000 trouble tickets per day. The agency deploys around 85 cybersecurity countermeasures per day and makes nearly 22,000 changes to its network each day. Through all these daily security events, Maj. Gen. Zabel said that the agency addresses around 36 cybersecurity incidents daily and 10 critical issues each day.

DISA is at the front lines of our nation’s cyber defenses, and the agency continues to take on more responsibilities. In the last year, DISA has stood up a new subordinate organization under U.S. Cyber Command, the Joint Force Headquarters Department of Defense Information Networks (JFHQ-DODIN). The organization provides centralized command and control of the Department of Defense’s networks.

Zabel thanked FMA member companies for their partnership and encouraged them to take advantage of the fact that we have DISA right in our back yard.

“One of my responsibilities, as the senior procurement executive, is to make sure we have good business partnerships. We need to be responsible and responsive as we interact with industry,” she said. “Our statistics show that we did $490 million worth of business in Maryland last year. Of that, $377 million was in the Fort Meade area.“

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